Language Tests and Registrations

OET & IELTS: What are the differences?

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The differences between the OET and IELTS


To register with the GMC, you’ll need to evidence your English language skills. For the majority of international medical graduates, this means taking either the OET or IELTS.


What is OET?

OET stands for Occupational English Test.

The OET is an international English language exam, specifically designed for healthcare professionals, that assesses a person’s English reading, listening, writing and speaking proficiency. 

There are 12 different versions of the OET test. Each version of the test is designed for different healthcare professions (i.e. nursing, medicine, radiography etc). The reading and listening sections are the same for each, but the speaking and writing sections are tailored to each profession.

Overseas doctors wanting to register for a licence to practise with the GMC must sit the Medicine version of the test. 


What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System.

The IELTS is an international English language exam that assesses the language proficiency of people who want to work where English is used as a language of communication. It assesses a person’s English reading, listening, writing and speaking capabilities however, it is not medicine or workplace specific. Instead, it covers a variety of topics designed to test a person’s language capabilities in environments where English is used.

There are two versions of the IELTS test which are available: IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic. Medical professionals wanting to practice in the UK, will need to take the Academic test rather than the General Training exam.


OET Structure

The OET exam assesses all four language skills:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

The OET listening and reading sections are the same for each version of the test however, the speaking and writing sections are tailored to each profession. 

The listening section of the assessment lasts approximately 45 minutes, the reading section approximately 60 minutes, the writing section approximately 45 minutes and the speaking section approximately 20 minutes. 

For information on what the OET entails, click here.


IELTS Structure

The IELTS exam assesses all four language skills:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

The listening section of the assessment lasts approximately 40 minutes, the reading section approximately 60 minutes, the writing section approximately 60 minutes and the speaking section approximately 11-14 minutes. 

For information on what the IELTS exam entails click here.


Preparation

Although the OET and IELTS are both English language tests designed to assess a persons English language skills, they are distinctively different tests; the OET is profession-specific whereas the IELTS is not. As such, preparation for the two tests follow two very different pathways.

Preparation for the IELTS will involve learning large amounts of vocabulary on several academic subjects. Those taking the IELTS will also need to learn how to write reports and essays at an advanced level.

Preparation for the OET exam will involve learning a wide range of healthcare-related and profession-specific language. Test takers will need to know how to write a referral letter in detail at an advanced level.


How are both tests scored?

The IELTS scoring system ranges from 0-9 (9 being at expert skill level).  To pass IELTS, an overall score of 7.5 must be achieved with a minimum of 7.0 in each of the test areas.

The OET scoring system uses grades and points ranging from Grade E (0-90 points) to Grade A (450-500 points). For the GMC to accept your OET certificate, you will need to score a grade B or above (350 points) across all test areas. 


Costs

The cost of the IELTS Academic and General Training is £170-£195 depending on the test location.

In comparison, the Occupational English Test costs $587 AUD (approximately £330). This may vary depending on location.


Is one test easier than the other?

There’s no evidence to suggest that one English language test is easier than the other.


Are both tests accepted by the GMC?

Yes, both the OET and IELTS can be used for GMC registration.




If you’re interested in working in the UK and would like to discuss the positions available in your specialty, and how we can assist you, please contact our team.